DIARY – AINTREE FESTIVAL
FRIDAY 13 APRIL 2018
Winner of the Mildmay Novices’ Chase, Terrefort
trained by Nicky Henderson and ridden by Daryl Jacob
I was up at 06:00 this morning, following another restless night. Having showered, washed and dried my hair, I was ready to go to breakfast by 07:15, accompanied by my friend Sandra. Today we were shown to a table within the ‘fireplace room’.
Again, today, I had the full English breakfast, with three rashers of bacon, half a fried tomato, mushrooms, an omelette, and a pork sausage. I also ate two yoghurts, and a cold croissant with butter and raspberry jam; I drank a glass of apple juice today. If there is one criticism, it would be the fact that the plastic tablecloth, where the cold drinks and glasses were set out, was very sticky!
Today’s outfit was a dark blue thermal T-shirt, a grey with black birds print thermal T-shirt, a cerise pink thermal T-shirt, a turquoise BHS cardigan, a dark violet fleece, a black fleece gillet, a grey M & S skirt with front side-frill and fishtail hem, and black tights under light grey jeggings. As it had been raining early morning and it threatened to continue until at least lunch-time, I chose to wear my black faux sheepskin coat today. Also my ‘Finding Nemo’ scarf which features clown fish, plus my black with white horses design snood.
As I was wearing jeggings as well as a skirt, I wore my black ‘Danville’ ankle boots by Hotter too. These boots have proved a godsend this season, having been worn on the Saturday of Cheltenham’s November fixture, three times at the Cheltenham Festival, today ... and they would also be worn on Grand National day too! They were purchased in a sale; I’d already bought the flint-coloured pair when they first went on sale a couple of seasons, if not longer, ago.
The grey skirt was also a bargain; purchased from M & S in their January sale. I’d bought two skirts, both greatly reduced in price, the other being the turquoise check one I’d won on Day 1. I’d originally bought the 27-inch length version but, when I tried it on, it just fell off me; it must have been two sizes bigger than labelled! I returned it but not before I’d ordered another; there was only the 24-inch version available now but the price had reduced even further. When it arrived, I discovered I preferred the 24-inch version length after all ... and will probably continue choosing the shorter length versions of skirts in the short term, as I’ve been blessed with good legs!
War-paint applied, we set off for Aintree at 09:35; it was my turn to drive today. Having stood in the car park since Wednesday evening, and been rained on overnight, I was hopeful that the car bonnet issue would be solved this year; besides the fan, which cools the engine, had been recently replaced after I drew attention to the noise issue. The mechanic said the fan was worn out ... his exact term is unrepeatable here!
We arrived at the racecourse at 10:10. The marshal manning the Anchor Bridge entrance waved us through, as I’d already hung the parking docket from the rear view mirror. Having driven across the bridge and racecourse, we headed down the driveway to join the centre of three queues of vehicles; their occupants were waiting for the security staff to check beneath the bonnets, inside the car boots, bag contents, etc, before allowing them to continue along the driveway to the car park.
When it was finally my turn, I released the bonnet catch and ... you’ve guessed it ... the damn thing refused to lock again. However, I’ve become so accustomed to this annual occurrence, that I just told the security guard to leave it as it was; I’d fix it.
Due to the shortage of spaces in the field beyond the entrance this year, I was directed to park immediately adjacent to it. The guy directing me to the parking space also tried to close the bonnet; I told him not to worry, everything was in hand. However it took perseverance because, having removed the two rubber stoppers, it still wouldn’t lock. As the engine needed to cool down, I kept the bonnet raised; after twenty minutes and two or three attempts at regular intervals, it finally locked. Phew! I let out a manic laugh in relief; the people in the nearby queue probably thought I was mad ... they are probably right!!!
Having locked my naughty car, we headed to the entrance which was just metres away. With handbag contents checked, our bodies scanned for weapons(!) and tickets scanned too, we walked across the Melling Road, then across the back straight of the Mildmay course in order to reach a bus which was waiting to take us to the grandstands side of the racecourse; it was standing room only thereon. Fortunately I was feeling somewhat steadier on my feet than I did at the start of the year when my pelvis issues were at their height.
Having crossed the home straight and entered the enclosures area, we then went in search of race-cards; we purchased these from a kiosk today, but it was still difficult to find it, especially when having to negotiate numerous ‘ladies’ tottering around on heels far too high for comfort! Having subsequently bought two bottles of water, we headed to the ladies loo situated behind the Earl of Derby stand; it was locked! We headed to the corresponding loo to the rear of the Lord Sefton stand instead; fortunately this facility was open.
The rain had left off whilst we’d been travelling, and up to this point, so we relocated to the steppings below the Weighing Room as we usual do; however, shortly afterwards, it started to rain once more. As a result, we sought shelter beneath the canopy which straddles the horse-walkway that leads to the racecourse, and that’s where we stayed whilst the Parade of Champions took place within the Parade Ring, along with a demonstration by nine side-saddle-riding ladies.
According to the race-card programme, those taking part in the side-saddle demonstration were Beatrice Robinson riding Guinness, Gemma Mullin riding Daisey, Lizzie Harris and Wild West (a retired racehorse), Amy Bryan Dowell riding Ceilis Bouncer (this pair appear each year), Katie Yeo and Hillgarth, Chloe Edgar riding Lisnergrancy Shamrock, Joanna Jack and Barbers Shop (a retired racehorse belonging to the Queen), Mary Goodridge and Carrigfada Grey Mist, and Sophie Walker riding Cos Me Is Black (the horse is a regular, maybe the rider too).
Appearing in the Parade of Champions, featuring past Grand National winners, were Bindaree (2002), Silver Birch (2007), Mon Mome (2009), Neptune Collonges (2012), Pineau De Re (2014) and Rule The World (2016).
We saw a number of women in long dresses, soaking up the rain, literally. Trainer Harry Whittington accompanied a number of his owners into the Earl of Derby stand; his sole intended runner today had been withdrawn due to the ground being unsuitable. Annoyingly, at one point, a couple decided to light up cigarettes, with their smoke wafting in our direction; selfish.
The ROR parade also took place today – according to the programme, taking part were Barbers Shop (now retired from competitive showing), Junior (dressage and hunting), Mad Moose (dressage ... who’d have guessed!), Midnight Chase (hunting), Peddlers Cross (show-jumping), Pineau De Re (eventing), Wild West (showing ... he was also listed as appearing with the side-saddle ladies), Inchloss (horseball), Mabait (horseball) and Monet’s Garden (now retired from competitive showing). I cannot vouch for this, as we only saw them from afar, and it wasn’t easy to hear the commentary which accompanied this parade!
It had almost stopped raining by the time we took up our regular position beside the horse-walkway ahead of the first race.
The favourite for this race was the Alan King-trained Who Dares Wins, ridden by Wayne Hutchinson; price 13-2. He’d finished 5th in this season’s Pertemps Final at the Cheltenham Festival. Stable companion Wilde Blue Yonder also got into this seemingly oversubscribed race; he was ridden by Tom Cannon.
With Lough Derg Spirit withdrawn due to unsuitable ground, it robbed jockey Jeremiah McGrath of a ride in the race he’s won last year aboard Rather Be.
There were no greys in this race.
The starting gate for this event was part way down the back straight, two flights therein to jump before the first bend and with one and three quarter circuits to travel.
And then they were off, with Storm Home, Cyrius Moriviere and Jenkins leading the way to the first flight; all nineteen runners cleared this safely. The field continued their journey along the back straight, crossing the sanded track-way on their way to the next obstacle. The favourite, Who Dares Wins, travelled prominently behind the leading trio and, bringing up the rear, was Court Minstrel.
Having successfully negotiated the second hurdle, the field headed into the top turn, subsequently travelling along the side of the course. Cyrius Moriviere and Storm Home continued to cut out the running from Jenkins, Who Dares Wins, with Project Bluebook to his inside and Ivan Gorbatov to his outside. Behind these were Eaton Hill, Wilde Blue Yonder, Cornborough, Eamon An Cnoic, the mare Jester Jet, Grand Partner, Zubayr, Spiritofthegames, Landin, Massini’s Trap, Sumkindofking, Court Minstrel and Three Musketeers.
Having turned into the home straight on the first occasion, the runners were soon on their way to flight number three; they all cleared this well, with Ivan Gorbatov travelling widest on the course. It was a short run to the next which, again, claimed no casualties. The competitors had a longer run to the fifth, with the JP McManus second-string continuing to travel wide of his rivals and Three Musketeers slightly detached in rear.
All nineteen skipped over this one before heading down past the grandstands; to the nearside of runners, Landin received a couple of reminders just prior to passing the winning post with one circuit to travel. There was no change at the head of affairs as the runners began their journey around the bottom bend; Ivan Gorbatov had been assimilated into the main group but was now being ridden along by jockey Barry Geraghty. Landin received a further reminder.
Cyrius Moriviere and Storm Home led the runners into the back straight, from Jenkins, Who Dares Wins and Project Bluebook; Three Musketeers continued to bring up the rear. The pace was beginning to increase as they headed over the sixth flight; there were no departures here, although Grand Partner was less than fluent. Ivan Gorbatov and Landin were the back markers as they continued their journey to the next.
All nineteen runners cleared this one successfully before heading across the sanded track-way once more, on their journey to the fourth last; Ivan Gorbatov and Landin were well adrift by this stage. The leaders cleared this well, but there were a few scrappy leaps from those travelling further back in the field; the flight took rather a hammering!
Little had changed up front as the field headed into the top turn; Cyrius Moriviere continued to set the pace alongside Storm Home, closely followed by Jenkins, Project Bluebook and Who Dares Wins from Eamon An Cnoic, Eaton Hill and Wilde Blue Yonder. The runners continued along the side of the course, with Three Musketeers bringing up the rear of the main group. Both Ivan Gorbatov and Landin were pulled up prior to the next.
Meanwhile, Cyrius Moriviere was a length of so clear as they headed into the home straight; top-weight Jenkins was now being pushed along. Nico de Boinville’s mount led the remaining runners over three out, from Storm Home and Jenkins. Behind these were Who Dares Wins and Spiritofthegames, with Jester Jet to the wide outside. The top-weight faded quickly as they continued to two out, but Cyrius Moriviere remained with a narrow advantage until almost joined by both Storm Home and Jester Jet at this flight.
Storm Home blundered here and dropped back, leaving Jester Jet to take a narrow led as they continued down the home straight towards the last; however, she drifted to her left, carrying the long-time leader away in that direction too. The mare led over the final obstacle, at which the weakening Cyrius Moriviere wasn’t fluent; Who Dares Wins, Eaton Hill and Wilde Blue Yonder were her closest pursuers as they began their journey down the run-in.
All of the leading contenders drifted across to the far side rails, but Jester Jet retained a clear advantage until close home; she held on to win by a diminishing three quarters of a length at the line. Eaton Hill claimed 2nd, Who Dares Wins finished 3rd, with Wilde Blue Yonder 4th and Grand Partner 5th; it had been a closely run handicap, as the latter finished just 2½ lengths behind the winner.
They were followed home by Project Bluebook and Spiritofthegames, then long-time leader Cyrius Moriviere. Sixteen completed, with Eamon An Cnoic pulled up before the final flight having weakened quickly from three out.
We remained at our viewing point beside the horse-walk exit/entry gateway following the race.
Race 1 - 1:40pm
THE ALDER HEY CHILDREN'S CHARITY HANDICAP HURDLE RACE (CLASS 1) (Grade 3)
Permission was given for EATON HILL (IRE) to go
early to post.
The favourite for the next race was Global Citizen, trained by Ben Pauling and ridden by Daryl Jacob; price 5-2. The horse had won Kempton’s Grade 2 Dovecote Hurdle back in February. Runner-up in that particular race was the Alan King-trained Scarlet Dragon which opposed again today.
There were no greys in this race and solely one chestnut, Ornua; the remainder were all bay in colour.
The starting gate for this race was at the top corner of the racecourse, with the runners entering the track from within the in-field where they had been circling ahead of the race. This meant they would initially travel along the short stretch of track at the top of the course, before turning into the home straight with that and one full circuit to travel.
The runners congregated within the chute at the far corner of the track and subsequently walked towards the starting gate; apart from the excitable Impact Factor who decided to bounce towards the tape, whilst travelling sideways! He broke into a canter, but jockey Mark Walsh managed to restrain him; thus allowing the main pack to catch up. The Starter was now happy … so then they were off.
Impact Factor led the way from Ornua; the latter having also become excited as the group had approached the starting tape. The favourite followed the leading duo; he was very keen, and had Style De Garde to his inside. Behind the leading four travelled Lalor, Mind’s Eye, Midnight Shadow, Vision Des Flow, Slate House, Bedrock, Scarlet Dragon, Distingo and, finally, Coolanly.
Having entered the home straight, the competitors soon arrived at the first flight; Ornua bunny-hopped this one. However, despite this, he pulled his way into the lead as the runners continued towards the second obstacle. Scarlet Dragon made a slight error here and Coolanly was already detached at the rear of the field.
There was little change in the order as the horses continued their journey down the home straight to the third flight; Global Citizen was less than fluent at this one. They then headed down past the winning post with one full circuit now to travel. Ornua was three lengths clear of his rivals as they continued around the grandstand bend; Impact Factor remained in second position and Coolanly had now attached himself to the back of the main group.
Having entered the back straight, the leader continued to motor-on and, subsequently, showed scant regard for the first flight therein; at the rear of the field, Coolanly was beginning to struggle and had lost touch once more. Ornua, distinguished by a low head carriage, remained at the head of affairs as they headed along the back straight to the fifth flight. The leaders cleared it okay, but either Mind’s Eye or Distingo trashed the second panel but, fortunately, those behind them seemed unaffected by this. Coolanly was being bumped along at the rear of the field by this stage.
The horses headed across the sanded track-way on their way to four out, still led by the sole chestnut. Style De Garde hit the top of it but it didn’t affect his momentum. Having cleared the flight, Slate House was now relegated to last position.
Impact Factor joined Ornua at the head of affairs as the runners continued into the top turn; Style De Garde and Global Citizen disputed third position, from Mind’s Eye, Lalor, Distingo, Midnight Shadow, the currently pushed along Vision De Flos, Bedrock, Coolanly, Scarlet Dragon and Slate House.
Ornua and Impact Factor subsequently led their rivals into the home straight; Vision Des Flos had responded to Robbie Power’s urgings and had now moved into sixth position. In contrast, Nico de Boinville decided to pull up Style De Garde, the gelding having weakened quickly. This left twelve runners to mount their challenges as they headed towards the third last flight.
In fact Global Citizen and Lalor had drawn alongside the previously leading duo as they cleared the obstacle. Just behind this quartet, Bedrock landed awkwardly having bumped into Vision Des Flos hindquarters upon landing. As a result of using up his energy early in the race, Ornua dropped out quickly; this left Lalor to take over the lead as the runners continued to the penultimate hurdle. Global Citizen and Bedrock were his nearest pursuers, just a length behind.
Having jumped the flight, Bedrock soon drew alongside Richard Johnson’s mount, whilst Vision Des Flos continued to stay on in their wake. However, Lalor soon found more and went on again and was a couple of lengths clear as he jumped the last. Clear of his rivals, the leader edged left to run alongside the rails and was driven out to win by 2½ lengths at the line.
Robbie Power had continued to coax an effort from Vision Des Flos and he overtook Bedrock to claim 2nd by three quarters of a length. Mind’s Eye claimed 4th, Coolanly 5th, with Global Citizen fading into 6th. Scarlet Dragon completed in 9th place; 11 finished, Distingo having also pulled up.
Lalor had won the 2017 Aintree Bumper, although he’d not translated that into hurdling form until today.
Again we remained beside the course-side rails rather than return to the steppings above the Winners’ Enclosure.
It was an emotional victory for winning trainer Kayley Woollacott, who’d taken over the licence when her husband passed away earlier in the season following a battle with mental illness:
Race 2 - 2:20pm
THE CRABBIES TOP NOVICES'
HURDLE RACE (CLASS 1) (Grade 1)
IMPACT FACTOR (IRE) wore earplugs which were
removed at the start.
The favourite for the next event was Terrefort; I love him. He’s trained by Nicky Henderson and was ridden by Daryl Jacob; price 3-1. Also taking part was the admirable mare, Ms Parfois; she was bouncing along as she was led from the Parade Ring to the racecourse.
Alan King’s Mia’s Storm was a non-runner; she hates soft ground. Of course there was a grey in this race, the fabulous Terrefort!
Jamie Snowden had a runner in this race too, namely Hogan’s Height. Jamie always goes to the starting gate when this horse runs, to ensure he jumps off with the others. In order to reach the racecourse, the trainer had to negotiate two gates ... he vaulted over them. As we were standing just beside the second of these, I wished him luck; he thanked me!
Today was Bryony Frost’s birthday; she was partnering Black Corton in his race and would be competing against her boyfriend Harry Cobden aboard Elegant Escape.
All-in-all it was a field of useful horses – Terrefort had finished as runner up in this year’s JLT, Elegant Escape had finished 3rd in the RSA behind Presenting Percy and Monalee, with Black Corton completing in 5th in the same race. Ms Parfois had been very game in defeat, going down by just half a length in the four miler; meanwhile Coo Star Sivola had won the first day’s big Handicap Chase.
The starting gate for this race was at the far end of the home straight, with that and two full circuits to travel.
There was a slight delay, whilst the competitors waited for a second ambulance to arrive … to follow the runners, as the original one had got stuck in the mud within the infield! Although, having said that, there shouldn’t have been a need for the emergency vehicle to venture onto the grass, it should have stayed on the tarmac road; the one the buses use to ferry spectators between the car park and the grandstand area. Presumably the doctor and vets vehicles would have been 4x4 and capable of bypassing an ambulance via the grass if necessary.
Finally they were off, with Elegant Escape, Captain Chaos and Testify leading the runners to the first. Captain Chaos landed in the lead over this one and subsequently pulled his way clear of his rivals as he headed towards the first open-ditch. Meanwhile, Black Corton brought up the rear. Terrefort got a little close to this one but it didn’t affect his momentum.
The horses continued on their journey down the home straight, crossing the route of the Grand National course as they headed towards the third. They cleared this without mishap and, still led by Captain Chaos, travelled down in front of the main grandstands area to reach the bottom bend, with two circuits now ahead of them.
The leader had been reined in by this stage and was only just over a length clear of his rivals as they continued into the back straight; Hogan’s Height brought up the rear. Captain Chaos got a little close to the fourth; Harry Skelton saw a stride but the horse didn’t respond! The other competitors cleared it well.
There was no change at the head of affairs as they continued towards and over the next. Elegant Escape held second position, from Testify, Terrefort, Ms Parfois, Snow Falcon, Coo Star Sivola, Black Corton and Hogan’s Height; the latter was well in touch despite being in last place currently. The following fence was the second-open ditch; Coo Star Sivola was the least fluent here and he dropped to the back of the field.
The runners continued over the sanded track-way on their way to the next. Once again the blinkered Captain Chaos got too close to this one, landing awkwardly as a result, but he remained in the lead as they headed into the top bend; Hogan’s Height had been relegated to the rear of the field once again.
The eighth obstacle was the cross-fence; there were no departures here and all nine competitors headed into the home straight having completed one circuit. Captain Chaos, Elegant Escape and Testify continued to lead the way; the main group was led by Ms Parfois and Terrefort, from Black Corton, Snow Falcon and Coo Star Sivola. Hogan’s Height was slightly adrift at the rear; he was pushed along intermittently.
Testify hit the next, as did the back-marker. The following fence was an open-ditch; the leader slowed as he approached this one, enabling Elegant Escape to take the lead upon landing. Coo Star Sivola was now feeling the heat and dropped back to dispute last place with the Jamie Snowden-trained runner.
Harry Skelton urged his mount on, and regained the lead as they headed across the route of the Grand National course on their journey to the next fence; he was a couple of lengths clear of Elegant Escape as they jumped it. Testify had dropped back and was now in danger of being swallowed up by the main group; Hogan’s Height and Coo Star Sivola continued, detached from the others.
As usual, and especially on Ladies’ Day, the gathered spectators got excited at the sight of the runners passing by as they headed down towards the winning post, before entering the bottom bend; they had one circuit now to travel. The field was quite compact as they continued into the back straight. Captain Chaos was sent on again at this point and extended his advantage on the approach to the next fence. Testify was now being pushed along and both Snow Falcon and Hogan’s Height were a little untidy when jumping the obstacle.
Harry Skelton rode his horse into the next, seeing a stride and his mount responded. Elegant Escape, holding second position narrowly, was a little untidy here; Terrefort was in third position, from Ms Parfois, Snow Falcon, Black Corton, the now struggling Testify, Hogan’s Height and Coo Star Sivola. The following fence was the penultimate open-ditch and Elegant Escape blundered here; Lizzie Kelly’s mount made an error too. The field subsequently continued across the sanded track-way on their way to the five out.
The leader put down again and clobbered the fence as a result; but the partnership survived. His jockey took a glance behind, to check on his rivals, as they continued into the far turn. Captain Chaos still held a clear advantage over Elegant Escape, Terrefort and Ms Parfois; Black Corton and Snow Falcon had soon closed the deficit upon the leading four. Coo Star Sivola and Hogan’s Height continued but tailed off; Brian Hughes had called it a day aboard Testify.
Harry Skelton’s mount led over the next, narrowly; Elegant Escape jumped out to his right, as was his tendency, but he still took the lead shortly afterwards. The runners subsequently entered the home straight, with just three fences to negotiate before the finish. Snow Falcon dropped out quickly as the leading five approached the third last; Ms Parfois jumped into the lead at this point.
The favourite was travelling just in behind the leading duo and Daryl Jacob had to take evasive action as Elegant Escape and Ms Parfois drifted over towards the far rail on their run towards the final open-ditch; the favourite continued to travel smoothly however, despite the step up in trip today.
Ms Parfois, Terrefort and Elegant Escape flew the fence; two lengths covering all three. Black Corton was now in fourth position, with Captain Chaos fifth, but they were too far back to be of any danger to the leading trio.
The mare was driven out by jockey Noel Fehily on the way to the final fence, but Terrefort had her measure as he was driven forward and took the lead just before take-off. Both jumped the fence really well, and set off up the run-in towards the line. The pennant-tailed favourite stayed on well all the way to the line to win by 3¾ lengths and Ms Parfois lost nothing in defeat; two wonderful horses.
Elegant Escape completed in 3rd, a further 9 lengths behind the runner-up. Black Corton was placed 4th, 18 lengths back, with Captain Chaos 5th and Hogan’s Height 6th. Snow Falcon was pulled up before two out having bled from the nose, and Coo Star Sivola was also pulled up before two out.
When interviewed, the stable-lad described Terrefort as an ‘absolute gentleman’, although much of the time is spent trying to wake him up! I’d heard that from trainer Nicky Henderson too; they really didn’t know what they’d got initially, because the horse is so laid back at home!
As I adore Terrefort, we returned to the steppings above the Winners’ Enclosure to see the horses return.
Race 3 - 2:50pm
THE BETWAY MILDMAY NOVICES' STEEPLE CHASE (CLASS 1) (Grade 1)
The performance of COO STAR SIVOLA (FR), which
was pulled up, was considered. Nick Williams could offer no explanation for
the gelding’s performance. The Veterinary Officer reported that a post-race examination
of COO STAR SIVOLA (FR), during routine testing, failed to reveal any
That’s it for Part One of my Ladies Day diary ...
Click here to read my Ladies’ Day Diary Part II